My best memories from eight years in California

Memories from eight years in California!

Hello, my friends! And welcome to the first blog post on A Lady Goes West in 2021. While I know the beginning of the year is when most people are talking about goals, healthy habits and change, instead today, I wanted to take a walk down memory lane.

This week, Dave, Brady, Rudy and I get on a one-way flight to Charlotte, North Carolina to start a new chapter after eight years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. It’s absolutely bittersweet, because although we are excited about the opportunities in Charlotte, we’re also pretty sad to leave some things behind. It’s been a wild ride out here. And the whole reason there is “A Lady Goes West” is because we decided to take a big leap of faith and move out here from Florida.

This post is going to share some of my best memories from our eight years and three months in California. There have been a lot of great times (and hard ones, but we’re not talking about those today, because I’ve covered plenty of the hard stuff lately in previous posts).

This eight-year adventure is one that we’re so happy we made. Because even when it wasn’t easy, it was always worth it. Here are my top memories. And these are in no particular order …

My best memories from eight years in California

My best memories from eight years in California by A Lady Goes West in January 2021

Working at the Les Mills office with Susan Renata

My long-time Les Mills instructor friends will truly appreciate this. When we moved to San Francisco eight years ago, and I learned there was a Les Mills West Coast office (which has since been closed), I knew I wanted to try to work there. The second day of living in San Francisco, I marched over to the office (because we just happened to live a 15-minute walk away), and I went inside to introduce myself. And don’t you know, right in the middle of the office there sat my idol at the time, Susan Renata, the actual queen of Les Mills BODYPUMP, who had been on every instructor video I’d consumed for two years. I was floored. 

It was one of the biggest celebrity sightings of my life. And not only was that visit to the Les Mills office a surprise for me, it turned into something more. I ended up getting a temporary contract job at the office while I looked for another job, and I got to know Susan and the other Les Mills team members well, I hung out with them, worked out with them, and had so much fun there.

Les Mills Reebok video shoot favorite by A Lady Goes West

(This picture is not from working at the Les Mills West Coast office, but this is a photoshoot for Reebok that I did with some fellow instructors in 2016 — we were extras in a video. And in the final product, you never saw me hehehe.)

I not only took Susan’s BODYPUMP classes at 24 Hour Fitness as a participant, but I also subbed those classes for her when she was away filming in New Zealand. And when she had to give up her 5pm Tuesday slot, I took it over for her.

This was literally the coolest thing for me. Susan has since moved back to New Zealand, the Les Mills West Coast office is closed, and I didn’t end up getting the full-time job there that I was hoping for at the end of my short-term contract role and was a little disappointed by that, but boy was that little adventure fun while it lasted. Good times. My working relationship with Les Mills has evolved over the years through the blog, and I love having them as a partner. As I always say, my love for Les Mills group fitness runs deep.

Brady’s first birthday party and family visitors

Before I had Brady, I had no idea how important a first birthday party for a baby really is for the parents, and the mom in particular. It’s not just a party. Not at all. I’ve shared a lot about how hard the first year of Brady’s life was for me, and this party was a true celebration that we had made it that far. I had been able to get pregnant naturally (after having a doctor tell me that I may not be able to), I had the baby, I nursed the baby, and we took care of the baby for a full sleep-less year. Wow.

We had about 60 people over to our house for Brady’s first birthday party, and it was great to have our friends come show their support. But what was even better was that my mom, my brother and my sister-in-law, Stephanie, all flew out to join in for this big weekend, because they knew how much it meant to us.

Brady's first birthday - family with Brady and Rudy - September 2018 by A Lady Goes West

(How tiny is Brady! He wasn’t even walking yet at his first birthday. The theme from Brady’s party was a nautical one, which matched his bedroom too.)

This was a very significant event for me and for us, and it meant everything to have them there. We did a ton to prepare for the party, and it went off without a hitch (thanks a lot to Stephanie’s crafty ways, as she created all of the decorations). I loved this day so much and remember it as being so special.

The California weather was incredible, our house was all set up and furnished (after several months of work since moving in), and we all hung outside eating, drinking, singing happy birthday, and it was birthday party perfection. And Brady will always be a little California-born-blonde-haired-blue-eyed-boy. 🙂 

Live in the Vineyard weekend in wine country

For the first two years that Dave and I lived in San Francisco, we explored new places and did new cool things almost every single weekend. After the second year though, I took on a regular Friday night BODYPUMP class and a regular Saturday morning BODYATTACK class, and for a few months, I also trained clients on Sundays — so our weekend exploring stopped for a while.

Anywho, one of the big highlights in the beginning was a weekend trip Dave and I took to wine country in the spring of our second year, which was a fancy VIP wine invite-only weekend, called Live in the Vineyard. Somehow, Dave got us invited to participate in this weekend (he got us invites to this type of a thing a lot over the years), which was full of live music, private concerts, meals and wine tastings at various vineyards. We dressed up, went all over wine country and had a total blast being treated like royalty for three days in a row.

Ashley and Dave at Cuvaison -- A Lady Goes West - August 2019

(This picture is actually from last summer in wine country, so not related to the Live in the Vineyard event. But all my pictures from that far back are super blurry and not worth posting again.)

I even met the New Kids on the Block and the Plain White Ts, who all performed at one of the events and took pictures with us afterward. We’ll always remember this awesome experience, that’s for sure. We had a few of these super-special type of things happen to us, and it was unlike anything we’d done before. 

San Francisco city living

Growing up, I always wanted to live in a big city, and I’m so glad that I lived out that experience for almost three years in San Francisco. 

Dave and I started out our west coast adventure in the SoMa neighborhood of San Francisco in a 16th floor 700-square-foot one-bedroom apartment. Then we moved to the Nob Hill neighborhood into a 2nd floor 550-square-foot studio apartment on the very top of a steep hill, where you could hear the cable cars out of the window. Before this, Dave and I had lived in a condo in downtown Orlando, so we were used to some aspects of this urban life, but living in San Francisco was a whole different thing.

Ashley and Dave in Nob Hill by A Lady Goes West -- September 2019

(This picture was taken several years after we moved out of the City, but it’s in a spot close to our Nob Hill apartment.)

I walked almost everywhere I went, and I didn’t have a car at the time (Dave still had his car, but he drove it to Oakland to work each day). Sometimes I relied on public transit, but I usually walked. And at times, that was super tiring, with a heavy backpack full of stuff. In fact, it grew old, and after three years, I was ready to get back to slightly more normal living, so we headed out of the City, and I got a car too.

But I will always treasure the nearly three years that Dave and I spent in our tiny city apartments together — very little space, very little stuff, and just us. We had so much fun on the weekends, we worked so hard growing our respective careers, and we learned so much while meeting new people, exploring new restaurants and soaking up our city. 

Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of inconvenient things about this kind of living, but I’m really glad I did it. And these years we spent together in San Francisco just after getting married will go down in history for us as a truly magical time.

Three Warriors championships and many Warriors games

I will be leaving (well, we will be leaving) the Bay Area with so many, many amazingly fun and crazy basketball memories.

When Dave took the job with the Warriors (which was the reason for our move our here), the team was not great. But throughout the last eight years, the Warriors have brought home three championships and were in five finals series in a row.

As an employee, Dave actually received a diamond-encrusted championship ring for every win too (now we keep them in our safe, because they aren’t exactly everyday wear). And when he wasn’t working at games, he was working very, very hard at his job in the corporate office, all day long. (Did I ever mention Dave worked a lot? heheh, I feel like that has come up several times lately in my reflective posts on life, so now you know.)

At Warriors game by A Lady Goes West - May 2019

(Although the Warriors moved to a new arena in San Francisco in 2019, all of my best memories will be from Oracle Arena in Oakland shown above.)

But back to the fun: I can vividly remember the first time the Warriors won, because it was an away game, and we watched it with our regular group of friends at a friends’ house on a Tuesday night. I had come straight from teaching BODYPUMP (in a Warriors jersey), and boy did we have some fun that night.

Then, I was pregnant with Brady at the Warriors arena when they won their second championship, and we had fun at the party that night (even though I drank water instead of champagne like everyone else in the arena). Finally, Dave was away in Cleveland with the team when they won their third title.

In addition to games, we also got to march in the celebration parades through Oakland two times, which was incredible, with people coming from far and wide to watch. The entire Warriors run is a big crazy memory, and we’ll never forget it.

Park days at Fort Mason and Golden Gate Park

Dave and I had never once had a “park day” before moving to San Francisco. And once we arrived, it became a favorite activity. Because so many people live in small city apartments, it’s common to take a book, a blanket, some wine and cheese and hang out in a beautiful park for a few hours on a weekend to get outside and be around others. We loved doing that. Our favorite park was Fort Mason, right on the beautiful San Francisco Bay. But we also had fun in Golden Gate Park.

Family picnic at Golden Gate Park in SF by A Lady Goes West

(Here’s our most recent park outing from this summer. Masked unless at our blanket, except for this picture, of course. And by the way, it’s very rare for it to be warm enough for shorts in San Francisco. Usually we spent our park days bundled up.)

We often took our visiting friends to experience these park days, and it was always such a care-free super-fun time. Over the summer, we went into Golden Gate Park for two picnic lunches with Brady, and he was so into it too. I’m not sure if “park days” are a thing in Charlotte, but if they are, we’re all over it. And if they aren’t, maybe we will do them anyhow.

Fun fitness times at IDEA World in Southern California

When we moved out to San Francisco, I didn’t even consider myself “in the fitness industry” because all I did was teach two BODYPUMP classes a week, while holding down a corporate communications job the rest of the time. But after we moved, I slowly transitioned into more fitness, getting more certifications, learning a ton and truly entering the industry. I did this at the same time as I was growing the blog, and so it made perfect sense for me to go to IDEA World Fitness Convention in Southern California, because it’s the biggest fitness event of the year, with a social media and blogging side conference too.

Ashley jumping outside Anaheim Convention Center by A Lady Goes West - June 2019

(This is a picture from the 2019 event in Anaheim. So much fun!)

I went down to IDEA World four times, and each time was so action-packed and enjoyable. My total favorite time was the last time I went and spent so much time with my online besties, Giselle and Heather, and we missed Gina, who is usually there with us. We worked out, we learned, we drank wine, we saw fitness and blogging friends from all over in one place, and we walked miles around the convention center each day. It was the best. I will totally make the trip back to the west coast for an IDEA World in the future, if the event comes back on in 2022. We already know it’s virtual for 2021, which is understandable, but definitely not as fun.

Other great memories …

  • Pizza parties at our house. I’ve mentioned before that our house has a brick pizza oven outside. Over the years here, Dave has perfected making the fire and making brick-oven pizzas, so we often did that for friends. We’ve had a lot of pizza parties over the last three years, sitting at our long outdoor table under the lights, and those were always good times. We will surely miss the pizza too.
  • Traveling around the state. We’ve been to Monterrey, Carmel, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Mendocino, Sausalito, Tiburon, wine country, Santa Barbara, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles, San Diego and more, and every area of California is so very different. And almost every spot was entirely new to us when we visited.
  • Trips to Cabo and Hawaii and even British Columbia. Dave and I spent a lot of time traveling back to Florida over the first few years, but we were able to fit in two amazing “just for fun” big trips — one to Cabo and one to Maui. And we loved them both. Both were pre-Brady, and we got to relax by the beach and pool and explore. Then, we took a great “just for fun” family trip in the summer of 2019 to Vancouver and Whistler, which was awesome.
  • Our Vegas adventure. Dave and I have both been to Vegas quite a bit over the last few years, and the best trip of our entire life was when we went in 2016 and met our best friends, Grant and Bre, there for Grant’s 40th birthday. During this trip, we met Britney Spears (before her concert at a “meet and greet”), we went on a helicopter tour, we saw a Cirque show, we hung out at the pool, we danced on a tables at a night club (another night where Dave got us a good hook-up), and we laughed so much our faces were sore for weeks after. Literally, we all still talk about this trip as the best five days of our lives. For real. This had to be on the list.
  • Visitors galore. One of the best parts about living in a place like San Francisco is that people want to visit you. We had so many friends from Florida come to stay with us over the years, and those times were always excuses to do all the fun things available to us, like wine country, fancy city dinners and park days too. Whenever we had a visitor, I would type up an agenda to make sure we fit everything in, and our visitors often left us exhausted from all the going-ons. My favorite visitor, of course, has always been my mom. But the rest are great too.
  • Sweaty group fitness classes with friends. I taught a LOT of group fitness over the last eight years, and I had some fabulous sweaty times with my class members and friends. I will miss my gym community so much. But I hope to make a new one and keep in touch with the old.
  • Watching Brady grow up. Even though we have some awesome event-based memories, I know the thing we’ll look back on the most is watching our little man grow and develop. He makes us laugh, cry and scream on a daily basis, and boy it’s fun. 🙂 

I’m sure I’m missing some great moments, but these are the ones that stand out to me right now, so we’ll stop there.

Ashley at the Whole Foods Northern California dinner by A Lady Goes West -- December 2018

Concluding thoughts

It’s crazy to think that we’re leaving California this week and moving back to the East Coast — to a state we’ve not spent much time.

When we moved out here, we actually had no idea how long we would stay here. And it definitely ended up becoming home for the last eight years. We lived in two apartments, one townhouse and one house. We became dog owners. Then became parents. We grew up. We did so much.

We’ll miss the weather, the beautiful views and the parks. And we’ll miss some great friends (especially our best friends here Phil and Kicki), as well as Dave’s amazing run at the Warriors, our first home; and we’ll miss a whole lot more. But we’re ready to make some new memories in North Carolina now too.

Thank you for reading about my best memories from our eight years in California! My friends, I will be back on the blog starting next week with our twice weekly posting schedule on Tuesdays and Fridays. But I will be taking the rest of this week off from posting here while we move and get settled into our AirBnB in Charlotte. Happy new year to you and yours! See you soon!

Questions of the day

What’s your top memory from the last eight years of your life?

What are you most excited about in 2021?

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12 Comments

  1. Happy New Year! What a great 8 years you had in CA! I have been reading your blog for many years (before Brady was born). Your blog is the first one I look for on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I’m looking forward to reading about your new adventures in Charlotte. I hope that we will be moving there in near future! Best wishes for your big move this week!

    1. Hi Linda! I’m so thankful to have “met” you via the blog and our shared love of Les Mills too. Thank you for reading and for following along!!

  2. Happy New Year Ashley! What a great list and I’m sure you’ll make many more memories in your new home, look forward to following along! Good luck with the move! x

  3. Wishing you safe travels and the very best getting settled into your new life in NC. Can’t to hear all about it. I have been to NC twice and loved both times-the hikes, the waterfalls, the change of seasons. I am sure you guys will love it. Stay well

  4. Happy New Year Ashley! Wishing you and your family the best. Now a new adventure begins in Charlotte. By the way I enjoy reading your blog.

  5. Happy New Year! Great memories and recap of an exciting time in your life and I’m sure even more great things are ahead :).

    I am looking forward to reaching some big goals in 2021, enjoying each day by living in the present moment, and day dreaming of a future when we can travel to exotic places again :).

  6. I just started reading your blog about a month ago and now learned you are moving! Park days can totally be a thing in Charlotte! Try freedom park. I moved to the Lake Norman area a few years ago and that’s our favorite Charlotte city park! In spring/summer, we also love fourth ward park. The whitewater center also has the vibe you’re after. Up in the LKN area, Jetton and Ramsey Creek are great parks, and you can definitely come for a few hours with snacks and hang. There are a LOT of pretty parks in the area though! My honest review of Charlotte is that the city is less developed/interesting compared to other places I have lived, but the outdoor scene is fabulous! Discovery Place Science and the Children’s Theatre are also awesome highlights of this area for us, at least during non COVID times (my kiddos are currently 6 and 8). Welcome to the area 🙂

    1. Thank you for this, Sarah! We actually went to Freedom Park yesterday and LOVED it! Off to another park today. I love the recommendations so keep them coming. Also, thanks for reading!! 🙂 xoxo

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